Some B2B marketers need to come out of the dark.

Early in my career I worked in the dark. Not literally, of course, but the analogy is appropriate.

I was a copywriter for an advertising agency. It was the biggest in the city Darkand had a very impressive client list. But if you envision me as one of those flamboyant ad folks who sit around and spew out ideas during intense creative sessions, you’re wrong. Here was the process this agency followed:

  1. A traffic person would bring a large manila envelope into my office with the project creative brief and work outline in it.
  2. I’d read it all, write the copy and put it in the envelope for a traffic person to come remove it from my office.
  3. That same envelope was then delivered to the designer who did the design work and put it back into the envelope to be taken away to the Netherland of pre-Internet advertising.
  4. At the end of two weeks I’d get my paycheck and never hear another word about what happened to the copy I wrote.

Then lo and behold, I was introduced to direct marketing. Now I conference with the client about the project strategy, goals, channels, target market, offer being made and call to action. Then I write the copy. The message gets designed. The message is distributed online or off. I find out how many people got it, how many responded and, over time, how many of those respondents end up making a purchase. My clients know the ROI of every project I write for them and, ultimately, the lifetime value of every customer the campaign generated.

Unfortunately, too many of my B2B clients (who shall remain nameless) are still marketing in the dark. That means they do not have any processes in place to track what is and is not working and what it all costs. Here’s a short list of the critical items B2B marketers should have a system in place to track:

  • Source of every lead — Because of cross-channel leakage, it’s pretty difficult to identify the channel that generated the lead unless the channel itself has a built-in tracking mechanism such as registrations, click thrus, reply devices, downloads, etc. To maximize the accuracy of this tracking, it’s essential that marketers apply the majority of their spending to trackable channels. Unfortunately, marketers who sell through resellers have an entirely different set of problems when trying to track leads to marketing efforts — a subject I hope to address in the future.
  • Cost-per-lead of every campaign by channel — Looking only at the number of leads generated is misleading. Looking only at the cost of the channel is misleading. The cost-per-lead is essential to know, as generating qualified leads at a lower cost is the best way to get more results out of a marketing budget.
  • Cost-per-sale and lifetime value — Leads must be tracked through the buying cycle all the way to the initial sale, then tracked for the lifetime of the customer. Then, and only then, can marketers measure the true success of their efforts.

Not only will this tracking information allow marketing to identify where to spend its time and money, but it also will ensure that marketing can properly justify its budget to business management and prevent losing it.

Whether you record critical tracking information using one of the hundreds of marketing automation programs available or with something as simple as a spreadsheet, what you know about how your marketing is working is the key to making your marketing work better.

Tracking social media traffic has value, of course, and can be done a number of ways, according to Richard Calentine on his Web Analytics Guy’s Blog. This approach tracks visitors and the sources of that traffic but does not follow an individual lead from acquisition to close. Which is why the above musts are the only direct route to improving marketing costs and effectiveness — and it can’t be done in the dark.

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